Past, present, future: 20 years of Russian-Dutch Library collaboration. 1

1993-2013: they have been no ordinary two decades. It is perhaps not common knowledge but two countries, Russia and the Netherlands, have been linked by a common purpose thanks to the efforts of two determined libraries: ‘so far away, yet so close’, as the saying is. These past twenty years, The Russian Rudomino All Russia State Library for Foreign Literature together with the Dutch The Ritman Library intend to promote cultural exchange and scholarship in the field of their shared cultural history with their planned joint projects, for 20 years now. By making accessible a hitherto largely neglected component of their joint cultural tradition, that of the Christian-Hermetic gnosis, the two institutions hope to contribute to the strengthening of religious tolerance and of individual freedom of thought which is also at the core of Christian-Hermetic gnosis.

The anniversary of twenty years of collaboration between The Rudomino All Russia State Library for Foreign Literature and The Ritman Library was celebrated on Friday 8 March 2013, with the opening of the ‘A Curious Tsar: Peter the Great and Discovering Nature’s Secrets in Amsterdam‘ exhibition in The Ritman Library in Amsterdam. Ekaterina Genieva and Alexandr Petrov, Director General and Executive Director of the Rudomino Library, were present that day, while founder Joost Ritman and Director Esther Ritman represented The Ritman Library.

To lend lustre to the festive occasion, Mr Ritman offered splendidly bound copies of the ‘Russian’ catalogues in slipcases to Mrs Genieva and Mr Piotrovsky.

As a symbol of religious tolerance, openness and the freedom of thought, Ekaterina Genieva unveiled an extraordinary bust of Nikolai Novikov by sculptor Ivan Korjev-Chuvelev at the opening of the exhibition. The bust was a gift to The Ritman Library from the Sobranie Fund and the Rudomino All Russia State Library for Foreign Literature, to commemorate 20 years of fruitful collaboration between The Ritman Library and the Rudomino Library. The ceremony took place in the presence of Sergey Korostelev, member of the council of trustees of the Sobranie Fund with his family and sculptor Ivan Korjev-Chuvelev with his wife.

With a play on the saying: ‘so far away, but getting closer all the time’, the Rudomino Library in Moscow and The Ritman Library in Amsterdam hope their steadfast cooperation will continue to open a window on the West and a door to the East.

As a beautiful symbol of collaboration, The Ritman Library now has its very own bust of Novikov!

20 years of collaboration between the The Rudomino All Russia State Library for Foreign Literature and The Ritman Library.

The library’s policy of seeking cooperation with other libraries and related institutions has resulted in a number of successful joint (inter)national exhibitions in the past. A close-knit organization, the library is able to rely on the personal involvement and professional expertise of sister institutions. Here the history of a close-knit collaboration between The Rudomino All Russia State Library for Foreign Literature and The Ritman Library.

The Library for Foreign Literature and The Ritman Library together first organized a major exhibition in 1993. This exhibition, called 500 Years of Gnosis, re-introduced to the Russian public a spiritual tradition which had been suppressed in Russia since the late 18th century. The exhibition opened in Moscow in March of 1993 in the presence of the Dutch ambassador and delegates from the Russian Ministry of Culture, and traveled to St Petersburg in May of the same year. The bi-lingual (Russian and English) exhibition catalogue was compiled by Dr Carlos Gilly, head of the Ritman research institute.

In 1999 The Ritman Library donated some 300 modern (post-1800) books on HermeticaAlchemy and related fields. An annotated catalogue of this donation, entitled a Catalogue of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica donation was compiled in Russian by Mrs Tatiana Vsehsviatskaia, curator of the Religious Department of the Library for Foreign Literature.

In 2004, The Ritman Library and the Library for Foreign Literature organized the exhibition The Call of the Rosycross. Four centuries of living tradition, to celebrate the fourth centenary of the birth of the Rosicrucian movement in Europe. With some 100 manuscripts and printed works, The Ritman Library was one of the larger loan-givers to this exhibition. A select number of Russian libraries and institutions also generously loaned a considerable number of Russian-language manuscripts and printed books. The exhibition was opened by the Dutch ambassador Tiddo Hofstee, who also participated in the opening congress on the theme of the exhibition.

Ms E. Ritman, Ms E.V. Genieva and Mr J.R. Ritman.

Ms J.A. van Kranendonk and Ms E.V. Genieva.

In 2006, finally, a cooperation agreement was signed between the VGBIL, in the person of General Director Ms. Ekaterina Genieva, and The Ritman Library, in the persons of founder Joost R. Ritman and Director Ms. Esther Ritman. The signing ceremony took place at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in The Hague and was hosted by Drs. J.A. van Kranendonk, Director-General for Culture and Media, and Dr. L.J. Roborgh, Director-General for Higher Education, Vocational Training and Adult Education and Science.

In February 2008 the successful exhibition Ways of Hermes traveled to Moscow. This exhibition, which was first shown in The Ritman Library in Amsterdam in 2003, offered a choice selection from two major earlier exhibitions in Italy, which together drew 75,000 visitors. The first Italian exhibition took place in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence under the title ‘Marsilio Ficino and the Return of Hermes Trismegistus’. The second one was organized together with the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice under the title ‘Magic, Alchemy and Science’ from the 15th to the 18th centuries. The influence of Hermes Trismegistus. The exhibition in Moscow offered to the public Hermetic sources in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica from the Renaissance into the eighteenth century, and guided the interested Russian visitor along the ‘Ways of Hermes’ and open vistas of knowledge long hidden.

In October 2012 Mr Ritman and his wife Rachel Ritman were together with library director Esther Ritman special guest at the International Scientific Conference. The conference took place in Moskow, Russia from October 15th until 17th and celebrated the 90th anniversary of the M.I. Rudomino All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature (VGBIL). It was co-organized with the Scientific Research Department for Religious Literature and The Scientific Research Centre ‘The Free Philosophical Society’ and with participation of the Foundation Sobranie and charitable foundation Delphis.

This picture is taken in The Religious Department of the M.I. Rudomino All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature and shows the collection part donated by the Ritman Library.

In our blog ‘International Scientific Conference – Russia & the Gnosis (15-17 Oct | Moskow)’ we told you that among the topics discussed at the ‘Russia and the Gnosis’ conference in October 2012 were the spiritual enlightenment campaign pursued by Nikolai Ivanovich Novikov and his circle and their role in the cultural reform of the country. Implementing these ideas during the whole period of their activities, Novikov and his associates tirelessly strove to familiarize the Russian reading public with the creative work of European writers: philosophical and esoteric ideas from all parts of the world and the great authors of Western mysticism. The activities of these innovative thinkers undoubtedly boosted the growth of an environment marked by religious tolerance, openness and the freedom of thought, all of which are also vital for our contemporary globalized society today.

To symbolize the continuity of Nikolai Novikov’s spiritual and educational work, a bust of Nikolai Novikov was presented and solemnly unveiled in the Atrium of the Library for Foreign Literature on the last day of the conference. Also presented on the occasion was a volume of articles entitled N.I. Novikov’s Morning Light (2012) that was edited by the Rudomino Book Centre (Центр книги Рудомино).

The disclosure of the Novikov statue during the conference designed by sculptur Ivan Korzhev.

The statue of Nikolai Ivanovich Novikov with sculptur Ivan Korzhev.

Book cover of the collection of articles N.I. Novikov’s Morning Light (2012) edited by the Rudomino Book Centre (Центр книги Рудомино).

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One thought on “Past, present, future: 20 years of Russian-Dutch Library collaboration.

  • Karine Akehurst

    I am deeply gratified that my old dear friend of many years,aversed with Dutch culture wrote to me enclosing information about the Ritman
    Library. What a revelation indeed to learn that such a wonderful gem concerning ‘Philosophica Hermetica’ exists!On occasion I visited the V&A in London, and the choice of books on alchemy (unless they were keeping material back)was lamentable; just one that derided alchemy! I have read your newletters with great interest and passion!I went through a personal alchemical journey, recorded it through my journals,and typed it up, copyrighting it in 2005. It is out on Amazon, available as a Kindle e-book. The Opening of the Work’ is replete with my fine art illustrations. Perhaps you might be interested in taking note of it for your readership though I’m aware your your archives are rich with ancient originals! However I hope that you might find my classical take on Alchemy of interest. Let me know. I shall be taking advantage of downloading free e-book chapters and hope my book might be on the list too one day. Many thanks. Wonderful!